New cause of glaucoma in horses

Abnormally high pressure within the eye linked to detachment of the Descemet’s membrane.
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Abnormally high pressure within the eye linked to detachment of the Descemet’s membrane.

A new cause for glaucoma in horses is documented in a recently published research paper.

cloudy eye

The paper describes the cases of five horses referred to veterinary clinics in various parts of the country---Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Washington State---because of severe fluid buildup in the cornea (corneal edema), high pressure within the eyeball (glaucoma) and corneal ulceration that did not respond to treatment. In each case, the eyes were removed and sent to a pathology lab that specializes in ocular conditions.

Examination revealed that each horse had detachment of the Descemet’s membrane (DM), a layer of cells that lines the inside of the cornea, as well as signs of chronic glaucoma.

DM detachment has been reported as a complication in people and horses after cataract surgery, but this is the first report of the condition in horses with no history of intraocular surgery. Blunt trauma to the eye was mentioned as one of the possible causes for developing glaucoma and DM detachment in the five cases.

The researchers urge that the possibility of glaucoma related to DM detachment be considered as a diagnosis in horses with severe corneal edema that is unresponsive to medical treatment. They note that the presence of the condition reduces the likelihood of retaining the eye.

Reference: “Glaucoma with Descemet’s membrane detachment in five horses,” Veterinary Ophthalmology, published online May 2016

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #467, August 2016.